WHY WAS HE FREED TO KILL?

Published on: June 7, 2005

--By PETER DAVIDSON

The justice system has come under attack for being too soft after a convicted killer who was released early went on to brutally murder his wife and two children.

Lumberyard worker Tony Pope of Tennessee was released on parole in 2001 after serving just five years of his 15-year sentence for the murder of his former girlfriend.

Pope and his wife Andrea, 36, and already a mother of one by her first husband, had a child together around Easter. Weeks later, Pope lashed out and beat his new family to death after Andrea asked for a divorce and said she was leaving with the kids.

Chattanooga, Tenn. police found Andrea, 13-year-old Brianna and five-week-old Christian dead in their Hixon, Tenn., home on May 2. They arrested Pope the next day when he coolly admitted to all three grisly slayings, according to an affidavit of the complaint.

Pope had crushed Andrea's skull and jaw with a hammer, leaving her body in the laundry room. He strangled Christian, who weighed just eight pounds, and pounded his skull and body with his fists. He choked his stepdaughter Brianna and stomped on her chest.

Police Chief Steve Parks told The National Enquirer: "Pope said his wife wanted a divorce and he told her: 'We're going to be married until death do us part.'"

Pope had previously confessed to killing his girlfriend Susan Yarbrough, bashing her to death with a frying pan in February 1995. He was charged with first-degree murder but pleaded to have it reduced to second-degree murder. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison but was paroled in October 2001.

Andrea's family and police are "outraged" that Pope was allowed back into the community and are calling for a tougher stance against dangerous criminals.

Said Andrea's relative Mike Barker: "You get caught with marijuana and you go to jail for 20 years. Kill someone and you're out in five. What kind of justice is this?"